I am pretty darn stoked today and it’s not for any reason other than because it’s nearing the end of May. The month of May was / has been one of the most challenging I’ve experienced since moving to Mexico.
Yes, in nearly a decade of living in Mexico, the mind-blowing challenges of living here still creep up. Let me explain…
At the end of March, the man from whom I rented (who lives in another far away state) appears at my door without notice and says “I’m sorry, but I need the house back for the beginning of May at the latest. My family and I are returning and need the house to live in.”
These things happen as a renter, and although I’m not happy, I set out to hit up my contacts to find a new place in the same private community. After a few social visits, mission accomplished. I am referred to a woman with a house two streets down who is fixing up her old abandoned place to rent it.
Negotiating the new house
I visit her. We chat. Turns out she wants a small fortune for the house. I decline and attempt to reason with her because the house truly was a disaster after being left for nearly a year without life or any sort of maintenance. After a week, we come to an agreement on the house, both on rent and repairs. While still too high in my opinion, it will do since she’s agreed to finish the repairs.
Now that I have a potential place to put my stuff, I need a way to get it there. First, I’ve decided to start with moving my garden which consists of about 30 small palmas. I reach out to a guy that is often in my neighborhood. He offers garden services and has a small crew of three that seem to work efficiently. I earmark 1,000 peso (high end) to hire his services, which will be to simply uproot and move the plants. No need to replant at the other end. I can do that.
He sees me. Follows me to my house and after a few minutes, says 2,800 peso. I nearly fall over…out of anger. This is very typical here. A foreigner is always charged more upfront “just because”. A foreign single woman (no intimidating man around) is often doomed.
I say no thank you. Right there and then he says “2,500 peso”, justifying his three guys will need at least five hours to pull up all the plants and move them. Again, I look at him and say no. He leaves and within minutes sends me a message. “2,000 peso por todo”. Now I’m pissed. I don’t reply. Ever.
Instead, I pull them up myself, bag them out of the sun and hire a separate truck to move them on moving day. Total cost to me, 1,000 peso for the truck and two men. Total time to pull up all my plants was nearly six hours over the course of eight days. That’s how long it took me, one person without experience to do this. His story about five hours for three guys was total rubbish.
The week before I hired two trucks from a local company. I explained what I needed. He provided a price and sent a confirmation. I ticked hire trucks off my to-do list. The day before the move I sent him a message to confirm their arrival the next day at 8:00 a.m.
After waiting more than an hour, he finally replied saying one of the two trucks I requested was in the shop and will not be available…but….here (he sent a photo). This truck is available instead.
He sent a photo of what looked like a child’s Tonka toy. A little “blue thing” that I think came straight from a museum someplace. There was no way it was going to work. I also didn’t have confidence that little Tonka was even going to make it down the highway to my house.
I was mad and said absolutely not. Now, before you think I’m being unreasonable, let me let you in on a little secret about moving trucks, companies and men here in Mexico. The price they give you is per load. So, if someone offers to move you for say 300 peso, he’ll likely be a small apartment or studio mover with a little 1/4 ton truck. When they charge 1,000 peso, it’s because they have a large 5 ton covered unit with locking doors and two moving men. I knew the game I would be in for had I allowed them to send the blue Tonka.
I ended up calling old faithful, a local moving company that I’d used before. Within minutes they arrived at my front door, even though I had requested the trucks for manana (tomorrow). I was 90 percent packed and decided what the hell since they were already here and clearly wanting the work.
He looked at me, looked at my house and said “5,000 peso”. I about died since the last time I used them was to move into that house (2 years before) for 750 peso. Now I’m fuming!
We negotiated like you could not imagine. I was mad, and for the first time since living here, pulled the same Mexican attitude on them that I’ve dealt with for years. While we’re going back and forth, my second truck shows up. I see the potential to end my misery parked in front of my house, but the price was unrealistic.
Super, super long story short. We haggard and bartered and agreed to two trucks, four men, all items (including one truck for my plants and garden gear) for 2,000 peso. I wholeheartedly agreed. I also helped move my things as fast and hard as they did. It went a long way to earning their respect and in the end, everyone was happy. We had the two trucks loaded and moved (2 streets down) in two hours. It was a super move!
The old house
After a few days of being completely moved, I happened past the old pad one evening. Sure enough, I see my previous landlord’s truck and long moving trailer glistening in the front yard from the setting sun. The next morning, however, I noticed the yard and house as vacant as a ghost town as my dog’s and I passed by.
Another few days come and go before I finally decide to head over and take a closer look. I was completely jaw-dropped to see the entire house, the one I’d put so much love, money and effort into for nearly two years, was completely void of anything of value, a very, very common move here for Mexicans going through a bank repo.
It seems my old landlord simply pocketed the rent I paid for those two years and didn’t forward a peso to the rightful owners, the bank. He arrived late that one evening to strip the house of anything of value…fridge, stove, kitchen cupboards, hot water tank, air conditioners and copper tubing, cistern, bathroom fixtures, toilet…you name it. He even took the kitchen sink and door knobs!
I lost my lovely home because of an irresponsible homeowner!
The new house
I had gotten the keys to the new place only the day before the moving trucks arrived. I signed some pre-made Office Depot contract the landlady had for me and herself. After being in the house for two weeks, she asks (on a Sunday) if she can come by. She has a new contract. Hmmmm, I think to myself. Let’s see what she’s up to.
She arrives at 11:30 a.m. and indeed, has a new contract, which is identical to the previous one with the exception of an additional signature and properly filled out names (including mine. Welcome to Mexico).
I review it and sign it. She leaves, but not before commenting on how “bonito” the house is, how it’s been transformed, etc. I take this as a warning, not a compliment…and with good reason. Several days later she messages, wondering why the community maintenance has not been paid. I explain that was not part of our deal, that our deal…HER deal…was a flat rate for rent, period.
She fights this tooth and nail…and so do I, reminding her that I’ve already lived in this private community for nearly three years and am familiar with how the rentals work. She continues to fight. I take the gloves off and go hard on her so she understands I’m not a pushover and will not be milked out of additional money because she saw how nice the house is now and assumes I can simply afford it.
It’s now nearing the end of May. Every time my phone displayed a message I would cringe knowing it was her trying to twist and turn a bit more to get me to pay her maintenance fees. After nearly a week, she backs off, but not before I lose a week’s worth of sleep. I make it clear she is not to contact me anymore. I will contact her only for house emergencies. My phone has been quiet for four full days…